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Home office produces hardest workers (theage.com.au)
50 points by nreece 1695 days ago | hide | past | web | 43 comments | favorite

In this local vs. remote work debate I find that the truth, as it often does, lies somewhere in the middle. There are pros and cons to both environments and what matters is what each environment offers how an employee chooses to deal with the challenges associated with each.

Some people are more equipped than others to deal with work distractions and some people are more equipped than others to deal with loneliness or isolation when working in a home office environment.

I like the debate but can see both sides and don't feel there is one clear "right way".


I like "studies" such as this, not because I think a survey based study really validates my position but because I can point to this article to progress my own agenda with the hiring managers of the world.. Just being honest (or honest about dishonesty I guess..)

Usually the truth doesn't lie in the middle, especially not when opinion-havers influence one another or are otherwise infected by the same culture. Consider historical distributions of opinions on the employer/employee relationship and compare the overlap between that of today. See also http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=1470261

When I compare my 15 years in the office to my 7 years full-time telecommute, I can say without a doubt that I get a lot more work done working form home. Anyone who hasn't experienced the huge amount of time wasted in big-corp office environments hasn't worked in big-corp offices.

"I can't come into the office and goof off with you guys" has always been my feeling for people who want fewer WFH days

Link to full study? News are notoriously bad at interpreting researches.

First of all, 25 people is a small sample. It could be that the study luckly found enough people to make the data sing this song.

Second, work more/harder doesn't mean "better than those in the office".

I'm guessing this is the actual article : http://tja.org.au/index.php/tja/article/view/390

Full text requires subscription, though.

Yeah, 25 is no sample at all. I mean, I work from home, but that's only because that works for my current situation and the type of work I do. There are a million other factors that can affect productivity either way.

The source of this article that claims teleworking is great is a survey of teleworkers, making the result - I'll be generous - "unsurprising".

That's what Marissa Mayer said too :p

Talking to my partner who's in OH&S and she was saying there is a growing body of evidence working from home is bad for your mental health.

Not saying that's absolutely everyone in all situations but like most mental health issues you can't really self diagnose.

I'd be really interested in some references to these studies, if you wouldn't mind sharing.

There is much evidence that commuting is bad for mental health


I agree. I actively try to get out. I also more acutely notice when I'm not working when working from home compared to an office. Since starting one job working from home in NYC I put on 20 pounds in 6 months because I wasn't walking to and from work as much.

You may also have snacked more. Being at home makes that much easier.

I work from home 5 days a week. I love the ability of having a flexible work environment , so I drive myself to remain focused during the day and produce the most that I can.

This doesn't work for everyone, a lot of people will say they get distracted, or don't have motivation to make it work. In my mind it's generally because they haven't setup the proper home office atmosphere and/or processes.

> In my mind it's generally because they haven't setup the proper home office atmosphere and/or processes.

True as that may be, it's fairly easy to stay focused in a work environment and fairly hard not to go insane at home. Setting up the proper home office atmosphere and processes, experimenting with different ways of working, that in itself is part of the ordeal.

>>True as that may be, it's fairly easy to stay focused in a work environment and fairly hard not to go insane at home.

It depends on the work and home environments. In my office there are a lot of distractions, probably because I work in Presales which means I'm sitting among salespeople, who are one of the loudest groups in a corporate environment. On top of this we have an open-office plan, which means that even if I put on noise-canceling headphones, I still have to deal with visual distractions like people walking by. As if all of this weren't enough, our catered lunch starts at noon and ends at 1pm, so I need to take that into account when I schedule my day, even if I'm not hungry at that time.

In contrast, my home is a very quiet and comfortable environment. On days that I have worked from home (sick, car troubles, etc. - working from home under normal circumstances is strictly forbidden), I have gotten three to four times as much work done.

> it's fairly easy to stay focused in a work environment and fairly hard not to go insane at home.

That depends entirely on the person. I've spent years working totally in an office, totally at home, and various combinations of the two.

I get a lot less done in the office precisely because I can't concentrate with people moving and talking all around me. Just the thought of the open floorplan setups a lot of companies have makes me shudder. Putting headphones on and listening to music is just as distracting to me.

Working from home, it's quiet and I can focus on what I need to. I don't have any issue with lack of social contact; between IMs, telephone, Skype, and the occasional trip to the office it just never seems to be an issue.

Overall, I think the best setup (for me) is being able to work from home as often as I want (2-4 days a week), with the opportunity to go into an office whenever I want for meetings and general discussion.

True, but I find that the most effective workers can be effective anywhere.

At home: I can't get work done because I get distracted by my couch/play video games.

At the office: I'm not getting work done because I'm reading HN all day long.

Knowing yourself and how to create the proper processes/workplace is important, and something everyone should discover about themselves.

This. If you're determined to pound-out a good 8 hour day for a client, and do a fine job that shows fine results, it doesn't matter what your surroundings are. Unfortunately thi s debate is showing up daily in HN lately, and I don't anticipate swaying any minds. Disclosure: Teleworker for 10 years, often for Californians (who themselves often assume I'm in the same state or timezone as them, and I'm set up to anticipate that) via sailboat in the Florida Keys.

I disagree on one point, food. When working at an office I tend to eat out and just generally be unhealthy. Working from home allows me more time to cook meals and be healthier in general.

I often aspire to a life like the one you have. What type of telework do you do?

I do whatever gets thrown my way by my 'boots on the ground' partners in LA in San Francisco (without whom I'd get a lot less work). Primarily Rails and Node, sometimes even PHP (with Zend or other MVC frameworks at least though). I'll even write Java plugins for your Wowza Media Server, if that's what you need. After taxes, the paycheck isn't quite as good as a senior developer in San Francisco, despite the work being hard and engaging. But hey, the nights and weekends are beyond comparison.

>fairly hard not to go insane at home

You have to chitchat plenty, and you have to do lunches out a couple times a week, etc, and have social interaction in the evenings.

I don't see why common sense hasn't prevailed on this topic after being beaten to death for years. The only ones who can decide whether telecommuting or remote working makes sense are the managers of each company asking themselves that question. There are too many variables, and no obvious answer. The best researchers should strive for is to identify the common variables with their inputs & outputs, and publicize that information to biz execs and hiring managers.

Anecdote: only 4 of the top 10 tech staff at my company are based in offices. Just a few months after our CEO made some backhanded comments about that statistic, he hired an EVP who also works from home (and who brought 3 VPs with him, all of whom are also WFHers). ymmv.

Why is it the managers that have to figure it out rather than individual employees figuring out for themselves what makes the most sense?

To be fair it the individual, their team and manager should know when working remotely is and isn't working on a case by case basis

The individuals also make the same choice when they select the company they want to work with. I assume this was meant to be implied. All business relationships require at least two parties.

Just like how working at a office has its time drains(Meetings/Travel/chit chat etc), Working from home too has its time drains(lack of self discipline, distractions from family members etc).

Working from home looks horrible if the person is not disciplined, you can end up the whole day watching TV or reading articles on the net since no one is watching you. In many cases WFH is synonymous with taking leave for a day, without actually having to take leave.

Currently you see the most discipline people working from home, hence you always hear good news about it. Wait for a while, when your ordinary guy begins to work from home and see how its not all milk and honey.

Working from home makes it so that work time is worth nothing and work results are worth everything. With that, it makes sense that working towards driving results rather than chair-hours is more productive.

Been working remotely 100% of the time for over two years and my productivity is through the roof. In the office? Show up at 8 leave at 5? I'd get annoyed, burned out, not want to do anything and I has become a total clock watcher. 5pm, I'm out. But, I noticed ... work from home ... I get a ton of work done, dont watch the clock and get my 8 hours (or more usually ) in very easily without issue.

I work remotely but also have space in a shared office about 10 minutes walk from my house. There's some great benefits to this setup, if I want some social contact I head down to the office and if I want to really focus for the day I can stay at home. When I am in the office it's easier to focus than if I was at my company office because I'm not getting bugged by people about work, it's just general chat, lunch etc. when I want it. Because I'm so close it's very easy to pick and choose as well, I'll work at home in the morning then head in for lunch with the guys and maybe finish up in the office for the afternoon. You still have to make some extra effort for team building but with regular nights out and a couple of days here and there in the company office it works out pretty well.

It may also be that productive people are over-represented among those that work from home. Or, those for whom working from home increases productivity…tend to work from home. (Another commenter mentions survivorship bias, similar idea.)

I work from a home office (separate from the house but still part of it) and on average work around 12 hours a day, 6 days a week. It doesn't bother me because I'm in a great environment without distractions. When I had an office job, the most I could do we're around 4 hours of real work.

70+ hours of real work per week is amazingly high levels of productivity. You are like a four weeks ahead of an ordinary office goer for every he week spends working at office. by this definition your quarterly work equals his yearly work.

You can conquer the world with such a effort.

Curious to know, how do you do it?

@mctx && @kamaal,

1. I spend a lot of time planning my day, week, month, trimester. I don't go longer than that because plans change so much that its not useful. Planning is crucial, and real hard work. If you are not planning, then you are just wasting resources away.

I do plan differently than other people. I don't use TODO lists. Mine are more scribbles on a notebook. Each day I set a goal of completing n amount tasks and focus on getting them done. They can be for something from the present, or for something one month away. Having such flixibility allows me to buy myself time.

2. I track my momentum. The more I do the more I want to do. I have this neat little calendar that I created myself called "The Snowball Calendar", where I keep track of every productive day I've had. Just imagine a printed calendar and each day is crossed with a big red X. I put this in a place where its visible. Gets me amped up to keep working towards my goals by just seeing how much Ive done already.

3. I allow myself to just get up and leave at almost any time (unless Im with a client or doing some specific work). Sometimes I get on my truck and get a table at Chilli's. Then spend about 2-3 hours working from there. Other times I simply go to the backyard with my laptop. :)

4. I meditate. But not any Zen-style meditation. I do what I call work mediation. In it I see what I want to accomplish already done, then trace back the steps needed to complete it. I really like doing this because it really eases a lot of pains that come up during projects. A great example is that I use this technique to first write the programs in my head, and then onto the computer. I can really cut down coding time if I just write the whole thing in my mind.

5. I dont have a strict schedule, say from 9-5. Doesnt work for me. I do things in blocks of time. Length varies by task. Sometimes Im a complete night owl, and sometimes I wake up early in the morning and work. My sleep is not deprived because I take nap breaks.

6. I don't surf the web from any of my workstations. I only do it from my iPod. Netflix, Pandora, Youtube, HN, reddit, etc., they are only accessed from the iPod. The workstations are for work only. I have one for code, one for writing, and two servers that power Nuuton's crawler.

7. I make sure to work while doing other things. Not multi-tasking, though. Say I'm cleaning around the house. I keep a pen and notebook at hand. While cleaning my mind wanders off. Every few minutes I get a burst of data coming in. I stop and write those things down. Every thought.

8. I exercise well. Exercise keeps me in top shape. Plus my best ideas and solutions always come when Im running on the track.

9. I dont follow a particular diet, but I make sure to count calories and eat well. Eating fast food is just detrimental to productivity because my body shuts down. I feel sleepy and tired from all the junk in it.

10. I take mini vacations where I just dont do anything at all. Nothing. Just sleep, watch netflix, and eat. This past weekend was one of such. After working hard for a month and a half (average 80 hours a week because I also worked on Sundays), I had to take a break. So I took it.

11. I dont waste time picking my clothes. I have a standard attire that I use every day (like an uniform).

I'm basically working or thinking about things during the whole day. But I have always been like this. And Im not sure if this is something that anyone can copy or do (or even learn). Its just the way I am. I know of people who are very productive working much less than I do. So it just differs from person to person.

70+ hours a week is a lot of work. Is that all coding, or a lot of managing/client communication, marketing, etc? How are your 12 hours structured, i.e. in 2 hour blocks?

Or those who have been given the permission to work from home happen to be the most responsible workers.

Yep. I can attribute a lot of my progress as a designer/developer coming from switching to working at home (and for myself). I can safely say that by removing the daily updates on silly things cats did the night before, I picked up a good three to four hours of work per week.

working from home is great and all but I currently work in an environment where 'working from home' is the norm and it is not good for team-building at all. I've been here for months and still don't know what people look like or actually do even though I might send them reports or talk with them on lync.

Also, I guess this boils down to personality but I much rather work in the office where it is much harder to get distracted whereas at home you can just turn on the tv, watch movies, cook etc.

This is where regular company or team-wide meetups are worthwhile. GitHub do this semi-annually I think, I know Engine Yard do it with their remote support staff, and the company I work with does a monthly hack day.

Distractions can be overcome if you're willing to work on them. I find with daily standups, it's pretty hard to hide from a lack of progress, but if you don't have these then teaming up with a few colleagues to keep each other accountable is one option.

I stay away from TV, movies, etc during work hours, but I do tend to prepare proper meals in my lunch hour, rather than just grabbing whatever junk I can find. It's a good way to combat the extra weight you can gain when you start working from home too.

More challenging, in my decade of working at home experience, is turning off work to watch TV, movies, cook, etc. Work becomes the distraction itself. Perhaps it helps that I love what I do.

If you want to build just workers who get your job done, I am sure Home office might produce better results. But if you want creativity in the office, come up with new features/products and be more than just a normal worker who gets his job done, home might not be the ideal place.

Survivorship bias?

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